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Chapter 1 : Conservation and the Environment

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pages 1-7 (doi:10.13031/swce.2013.1) in Soil and Water Conservation Engineering, 7th Edition . Copyright 2013 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Mich.
Authors:   Rodney L. Huffman, Delmar D. Fangmeier, William J. Elliot, Stephen R. Workman
Keywords:   Soil, water, conservation, environment, Impact of Conservation Practices on the Environment, 1.1 Engineers in Soil and Water Conservation, 1.2 Conservation Ethics, 1.3 Environmental Regulations, 1.4 Hydrologic Cycle, Major Conservation Practices, 1.5

Introductory paragraphs: Soil and water conservation engineering is the application of engineering and biological principles to the solution of soil and water management problems. The conservation of natural resources implies utilization without waste while maintaining a continuous profitable level of crop production and while improving environmental quality. Engineers must develop economical systems that meet these requirements.

The engineering problems involved in soil and water conservation may be divided into the following topics: erosion control, drainage, irrigation, flood control, and water resource development and conservation. Although soil erosion takes place even under virgin conditions, the problems to be considered are caused principally by human exploitation of natural resources and the removal of the protective cover of natural vegetation. Urban-rural interface problems are even more serious because of high population density and increased runoff caused by severe changes in land use.

Drainage and irrigation involve water and its movement on the land surface or through the soil mass to provide optimum crop growth. To provide water at places and times when it is not naturally available, surface reservoirs or other storage facilities must be developed for irrigation and domestic use. Where available, ground water supplies can be developed and maintained by recharge techniques. Flood control consists of the prevention of overflow on low land and the reduction of flow in streams during and after heavy storms. In water‑short regions, soil water should be conserved by modified tillage and crop management techniques, level terracing, contouring, pitting, reservoirs, water harvesting, and other physical means of retaining precipitation on the land and reducing evaporative losses from the soil surface.

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